NFL Experts Pick the Winner of Chiefs-Buccaneers and Talk Prop Bets for Super Bowl LV
Chris Altruda of PennBets.com, Borgata sportsbook director Tom Gable and VSiN sports betting reporter Josh Appelbaum offer their insights
This is the season’s final edition of NFL Best Bets, a recurring series in which professional sports handicappers lend us their insights and picks for the most intriguing matchups for each week of the football season.
In the last edition of Best Bets for the 2020 NFL season, Chris Altruda, a national betting industry analyst for PennBets.com, Thomas Gable, the director of race and sportsbook at the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City, and sports betting reporter Josh Appelbaum of VSiN share their opinions on the Kansas City Chiefs taking on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Super Bowl LV as well as offer some insights into five prop bets for the big game.
You’ve got places to go, people to see and possibly some wagers to make, so let’s get to it.
Kansas City Chiefs (16-2) (-171, -3, O/U 56.5) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (14-5)
A compelling matchup because … it is the GOAT Tom Brady taking on the Baby GOAT Patrick Mahomes in the first-ever Super Bowl that will be played at the home stadium of one of the participants. Brady and Mahomes have split their previous four matchups right down the middle, with the former winning the first two and the latter claiming victory in the last two. If Mahomes wins, the Chiefs will be the first team to win back-to-back Super Bowls since Brady and the Patriots. If Brady wins, he’ll have more titles than Michael Jordan.
Altruda’s Angle: It’s a little jarring to see the Super Bowl not have a “vs.” in the scoreline, but it’s just further proof Brady really is a wizard, I guess. Not that the defending champion Chiefs have anything to worry about in terms of playing on the road — they won at Raymond James Stadium in Week 12 by a 27-24 count that also stands as Tampa Bay’s last loss. Kansas City showed itself a complete team in returning to the Super Bowl, stifling Cleveland defensively in the divisional round and flexing its offensive muscle in throttling Buffalo. The Buccaneers took a playoff road less traveled, winning at Washington, at New Orleans and at Green Bay to reach the second Super Bowl in franchise history. Brady was not great against the Packers in the NFC title game in getting picked off three times, but he also made passes that Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks make that create the difference between winning and losing. Super Bowl contests that offer potential shootouts are hit-and-miss in delivery and Brady has been on both ends, winning a low-scoring game versus the Rams and losing a shootout to the Eagles. While picking against a six-time Super Bowl winner is fraught with danger, there is a relentlessness about Kansas City’s offense that makes the Chiefs inevitable. It may not get all the way to 56 points, but they can be held down only so long, as evidenced by last year’s win over San Francisco. I like the Chiefs, especially on the flat field goal number, but I’m also willing to sweat out the high-side hook of an extra-half point with them at -3.5.
Gable’s Guess: I think this really is going to come down to the Kansas City defense. Are they going to be able to pressure Brady enough to have him make some mistakes? If the Chiefs can get pressure on Brady, I think that they’re going to have a good chance here. The Chiefs are so fast and can get down the field so quickly. In last year’s Super Bowl, the 49ers were sitting in a great spot and then the Chiefs came back and took the lead. They can just get up and down the field in the blink of an eye. Even if you have a lead and you’re running the ball and trying to control the clock, Mahomes does not need a lot of time to score. But protecting him is going to be key for the Chiefs’ offensive line. We’ve seen the total drop one point from the opener. The public likes to bet the over. When you see these two quarterbacks and their bodies of work and all the weapons they have in this game, the public is going to think, “Well, this is going to be a very high-scoring game.” And the total is very high. I think you’re going to see more rushes on both sides. I think they’re going to run the ball and the clock is going to run. If I’m leaning one way, it would be looking at taking the under of 56.5.
Appelbaum’s Assessment: This line opened with Kansas City listed as a 3.5-point favorite. Early on we saw respected money pounce on the Bucs getting the hook (+3.5), which dropped the line down to the key number of 3. The Chiefs are the popular public bet, receiving roughly two-thirds of tickets across the market. Despite this lopsided support, the books have been reluctant to raise this line back to 3.5. This tells me they’re worried about putting the hook back out there for contrarian Bucs wiseguys. The Bucs are in a historically profitable spot. Playoff dogs with a line move in their favor (like the Bucs going from +3.5 to +3) are 4-1 ATS this postseason and 15-3 ATS (83.3%) over the past four postseasons. Also, line moves have been highly predictive in recent Super Bowls. Since 2010, the team receiving a line move in their favor has gone 7-2 ATS (78%), including 3-0 ATS over the past three Super Bowls. The Bucs also have elevated contrarian value as they are only receiving about one-third of tickets in the most heavily bet game of the year. The hook could end up being crucial in this game. Back in Week 12, the Chiefs beat the Bucs 27-24 but Tampa Bay covered as 3.5-point home favorites. The Bucs fit my model: against the public and with the sharps. I pounced on Tampa early at +3.5. I’m not betting against Brady. Give me the Bucs and the points.
Our Pick: We vowed to back Brady if he won two weeks ago, and if the game is close late in the fourth quarter, he’ll probably win it. But after some thought, we’re betting it won’t be, and laying the points with the Chiefs and Mahomes.
Over/Under 3.5 Field Goals (+115/-150)
Altruda’s Angle: There were only three field goals in the first meeting, but the key point is that all three of them came from 29 yards or closer. Coaches Andy Reid and Bruce Arians realize at least 30 points will be needed to win this game, thus 50-yard field goal attempts on fourth and manageable are probably not going to be popular decisions on either sideline. If either team scores a touchdown on their opening drive, the under should deliver. UNDER 3.5 FGs.
Gable’s Guess: Neither of these teams is great defensively in the red zone. I think Tampa ranked 19th and Kansas City was dead last in red-zone defense this year. So that would indicate there aren’t going to be a lot of stops in the red zone. If this was a regular-season game, I’m going to take the under. But this is the Super Bowl and I think the coaches are going to be a little bit more conservative and it won’t be as wide open as it is in the regular season. If I’m going to get plus money, I think I’m going to take the +115 on this and bet there are going to be four made field goals.
Appelbaum’s Assessment: Harrison Butker of the Chiefs is 4-for-5 on field goals through two postseason games, which averages to two per game. Ryan Succop of the Bucs is 8-for-8 on field goals through three postseason games, which averages to 2.67 per game. I think both red-zone defenses are stout and may force a field goal attempt instead of allowing a touchdown. I’ll grab the plus money payout on this one and root for four or more.
Our Pick: Both offenses have stalled in the red zone at times. Go over.
Patrick Mahomes passing yards: Over/Under 329.5 (-120/-110)
Altruda’s Angle: There is some bravery among oddsmakers establishing a yardage total of less than 75% of what Mahomes had against the Buccaneers in Week 12. Equally interesting is Mahomes has not topped 325 yards in any of his seven postseason games, though one was cut short by injury. There is little defensively that has proven successful against Mahomes for prolonged periods of time. This is a pick-your-poison for Tampa Bay defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, with few appealing options. It’ll be a sweat, but I’m going OVER 329.5 yards.
Gable’s Guess: When these teams first played, Mahomes had what I think was probably his best passing game of the season. His yearly season passing average is 316 yards. This is a number where there’s probably a bit of inflation because we know the public is going to come in on the over. If I’m looking at this particular prop, I’m going to take the under. I think there’s some value there. Especially because I do see Reid running the ball a little bit more here in this game than usual.
Appelbaum’s Assessment: This prop has taken in a lot of sharp over money as it opened around 315 yards and has been steamed up. I don’t think Andy Reid runs into the brick wall of Suh and Vea all game. I think he puts it into the hand of Mahomes. Mahomes threw for 462 yards in Week 12 against the Bucs. Give me the over.
Our Pick: Taylor Heinicke — who? — threw for more than 300 yards against Tampa in the first round of the playoffs. Go over.
Tom Brady interceptions: 0.5 INTs (-160/+125)
Altruda’s Angle: Brady’s three picks versus the Packers stand out, as do the two in the loss to the Chiefs earlier this season. As does throwing at least one pick in four of his last five Super Bowl appearances. I’m not saying he will fail to the value the ball, but a matchup in which points will be scored likely means aggressive mistakes will be made. Kansas City does not have a world-beating defense, but it did record interceptions in both postseason wins this season. The hedge here is the streak continues. OVER 0.5 INTs.
Gable’s Guess: This is basically a Yes/No question of whether he’s going to have an interception or not. The over has been heavily juiced to 160. If I was betting, this is probably one I’d stay away from. But if I was forced to take a side, I would probably take the yes and go over. I just don’t really have an appetite to lay -160 to do it.
Appelbaum’s Assessment: Brady just threw three picks against the Packers and threw 12 in the regular season, his most since 2011. I can see him chucking one up and getting it picked, although it might be just as good as a punt. I’ll lay the juice and expect at least one interception from Brady.
Our Pick: He hasn’t thrown a pick in each one, but Brady has seven interceptions in his last seven playoff games. We’re betting he throws one here.
Tyreek Hill receiving yards: O/U 94.5 (-125/-105)
Altruda’s Angle: That the number is under 100 yards is mind-boggling after Hill went on a rampage against Tampa’s secondary in Week 12 and had 200 yards IN THE FIRST QUARTER. There is every reason to believe Mahomes will target him at least 10 times. That means anywhere from one to three deep shots and, against a beat-up Bucs secondary, two receptions could deliver this play. OVER 94.5 yards.
Gable’s Guess: Hill is one of, if not the most significant weapon that Mahomes has at his disposal. My tendency here to back the under because there’s a bit better price. I think when you’re betting props, what you really have to look for is the price you’re getting. Back when we opened it, the line was 87.5. It was probably the one I wasn’t too sure about. Now that it has been bet up to 94.5 by the public, I would look to fade that and take the under.
Appelbaum’s Assessment: Hill torched the Bucs in Week 12, finishing with an absurd 13 catches for 269 yards. I expect Mahomes to throw it quite a bit in this game, which means lots of targets for Hill and Kelce. I’ll take the over.
Our Pick: Hill had over 100 receiving yards in KC’s previous two playoff games this season. Betting he makes it three in a row here, we’re siding with the over.
Leonard Fournette rushing yards: O/U 50.5 (-110/-120)
Altruda’s Angle: This may be the toughest listing among the five as it is not entirely contingent on Fournette’s performance. If the Bucs fall behind by double digits in the first quarter, Fournette will become almost a forgotten man as the game will devolve into a shootout. Not arguing that “Playoff Lenny” has been a force, but there’s also the chance Ronald Jones II could get hot and steal carries in addition to the possibility of Tampa Bay playing from behind. It’ll be close, but the lean is UNDER 50.5 yards.
Gable’s Guess: This is an interesting one. We’ve been getting a lot of play on the over. If you look at the whole season for Fournette, I think he only averaged 28 yards per game. But he’s rushed for 93, 63, and 55 yards in his last three games. He’s certainly being used more. I certainly would expect him to be used pretty heavily in the Super Bowl. Since I’m not laying too much juice, I would look to take the over here. I think he will be used and I think the over could certainly get there.
Appelbaum’s Assessment: Sharps have gotten down hard on the Fournette over rushing yards prop, steaming it up from 43.5 to 50.5. Fournette has really turned it on in the playoffs, rushing for 93 yards against Washington, 63 against the Saints and 55 against the Packers. Give me the over.
Our Pick: Tampa will run but it won’t always be with Fournette. We’re going under.
Last Week: 1-1, Season: 52-43–1
Editor’s note: Lines fluctuate throughout the week based on injuries, weather reports and other factors. Make sure to double-check odds before betting.
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